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Manhattan Borough President Proposes “Meatless Mondays”

February 23, 2010

I’ve been reading The Ethics of What We Eat, by Jim Mason and Peter Singer. Singer, a well-known vegetarian, is regarded as a founding father of the animal liberation movement. The book has brought about visceral reactions in me as I’ve learned more about factory farming and its effects on our planet, let alone the treatment of the animals themselves. Perhaps Singer’s influence is what led me to be more open-minded about a new policy recommendation from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

I was intrigued by the report Stringer recently released, titled “A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System”. New Yorkers know that there’s much conjecture about whether the borough’s should even have their own Presidents, given that they don’t seem to have much jurisdiction over anything and are veritable figureheads and parade leaders. I had the opportunity to meet Stringer at an Iftar dinner last year and since then, I try to be more open-minded about what he proposes, rather than focusing on whether his office is an effective use of government funds or should be eliminated.  Stringer’s report includes policy recommendations for NYC schools and school lunches, which may fall under his sphere of influence but certainly not his jurisdiction. Citing that one in five NYC kindergarteners is obese, his report specifically recommends:

  1. Require a Food Curriculum in Public Schools
  2. Expose City Students to Farms and Gardens
  3. Institute Meatless Mondays in City Schools

All of these recommendations are worth further investigation, and I feel strongly that all schools in America need better food curriculum. But – Meatless Mondays caught my eye. Apparently, the Baltimore School District has already fully implemented such a system.  The idea is that offering food that is lower in saturated fat once a week will force students to try new fruits, vegetables, and grains that they may grow to like.

Of course, the response from bloggers and online commenters is mixed. The veggie-lovers (a professor tells me they are known as “vegan-gelists”) think its high time we made the change away from processed foods. Some former cafeteria-eaters, myself included, fear that kids may end up hungry, disgusted by the thought of mushy green beans and slimy canned corn. Or worse – that the schools will skirt the policy by offering an abundance of French fries and ketchup (two vegetable servings, by some standards!) or covering the veggies in processed cheese to the point where the nutritional value is worse than its current level.

 If the quality of cafeteria food is improved from when I was in elementary school, then I think this is a great plan. As Stringer says, “You’ve got to reach the next generation of New Yorkers early.”  This might be one way to do it. I’m curious to follow the Baltimore system and see their results over time.  

What are your thoughts? Would you be comfortable having your children forced into a “Meatless Mondays” system? Do you think this will have a longterm positive effect on the health of New York City’s children?

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